Berry Tramel

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Longhorn Network has the rights to OU-Texas men's basketball showdown

by Berry Tramel Modified: September 23, 2013 at 4:45 pm •  Published: September 23, 2013
Anchor Lowell Galindo interviews Texas University women’s basketball coach Gail Goestenkors, right, during the launch of the Longhorn Network and for the College Game Day live event on the University of Texas at Austin campus, Friday, Aug. 26, 2011, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American Statesman, Ricardo B. Brazziell)  ORG XMIT: TXAUS210
Anchor Lowell Galindo interviews Texas University women’s basketball coach Gail Goestenkors, right, during the launch of the Longhorn Network and for the College Game Day live event on the University of Texas at Austin campus, Friday, Aug. 26, 2011, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American Statesman, Ricardo B. Brazziell) ORG XMIT: TXAUS210

The Longhorn Network, which has been blamed for everything from running off Texas A&M to making Mack Brown’s life miserable, can add another notch in its belt. Now Bevo TV is affecting college basketball fans. Starting with OU fans.

On Jan. 4, the Sooners open the Big 12 Conference season with a game at Texas. A game that will be televised by The Longhorn Network.

ESPN primarily owns the rights to Big 12 basketball. Out of 90 conference games, only seven have been bypassed by the ESPN brand, which includes ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNNews or ESPN’s syndication, which ends up on local channels. One of those seven games will be on CBS — the OSU at Kansas showdown.

So basically, six games didn’t make the cut. Here is what the Big 12 announced: “Of the league games not televised on a national or regional basis – most, if not all – will be selected at a later date for institutional broadcast packages.”

That’s code for, The Longhorn Network.

Here are the six games not selected: OU at Texas, TCU at Texas, West Virginia at Texas, Texas Tech at Texas, TCU at West Virginia and Texas Tech at TCU.

ESPN, of course, owns The Longhorn Network has discovered two things in the two years that Bevo TV has been in existence. There’s not enough quality programming to devote an entire television channel to just one college athletic program, and the public’ outcry’s for such a channel is not strong, even with a fan base as mighty as Texas’.

So ESPN saved aside from games — one might argue the most winnable games for Texas; no OSU or Kansas Baylor or Kansas State or Iowa State — to draw more eyeballs or new subscribers to The Longhorn Network. Which frankly is OK from the Texas side.

But for fans of West Virginia and OU and TCU and Tech, that means either they can’t watch their team play, or they watch their team play under the brand of the opposition.

Reader Tom Roberts, a fan of both Kansas and OU, wrote me and asked, “Who is minding the store in the Big 12 Conference for basketball TV?  Sounds like it is DeLoss Dodd. Why aren’t any other games on anyone else’s third-tier network?”

The answer is obvious. ESPN is minding the store. The Big 12 signed up with ESPN and enjoys the bounty from such a partnership. But ESPN is not in the business of placating OU basketball fans. ESPN is in the business of making money, and The Longhorn Network needs inventory. If that means Sooner fans don’t get to watch their conference opener, so be it? If that means watching OU’s conference opener amid a cavalcade of Texas promotions, so be it.

And it will create a backlash. Not just from basketball zealots, but from fans tired of Texas’ influence on the conference. Here’s an email I received from Greg Davis, a long-time reader who has some clear and defined attitudes about The Longhorn Network:

“Are my lyin’ somewhat aging Cowley County eyes fibbing when I read, and it appears confirmed by the OU website, that our fans, most of all live within the state of Oklahoma, but yes, those like me in Florida who watch every game, are going to be blacked out because the road opener of our men’s basketball team with the University of Texas, Austin is going to be restricted to the Longhorn Network, which is shown to more armadillos (in their desert holes) than people?

“If true, just pathetic … (is) OU just going to lay down at allow this happen?  This ‘love-fest’ by my university’s leadership with the University of Arrogance, Austin and Bully-boy, DeLoss Dodds, has crossed the imaginary red line by most Sooner alums, fans and donors, a status which covers me on all three fronts.  The typical hard core, long-term OU alum and fan takes the crossing of a red line a bit more seriously than President Obama does with chemical weapons.   The conduct and method of doing business by UT/King DeLoss has run off four former Big 12 members, all AAU members, who provided some academic credibility to a conference with some entities, how shall I term it, ‘academic skanks.’ They have created a multi-headed monster in Texas A&M when the Aggies could never do it by themselves with their own skills.

“Now, a major OU sporting event cannot be enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of its fans because it is televised exclusively on the LHN which is about as worthless to OU’s interests as the proverbial mammary glands on a male piggy. Gosh, does that convince even a few more Sooner fans to migrate to Chesapeake Arena to view and cheer an already tough competitor for fan dollars?

“What next from Mount Olympus in Norman?  Change the color of the shorts and pants of our athletic teams to burnt orange?  I was always suspicious of this continued association, but this latest edict from King DeLoss only angers me at OUr leadership, not Texas.  For them it is just business; for us, let us all bow down and kiss their feet, and frankly, our president and AD have allowed, and yes, encouraged it to occur.

“Once upon a time, an association with UT-Austin may have been required for our survival.  Given their current all-around performance in virtually every sports endeavor, men and women, has rendered that mandatory association moot.  UT, in a single word, is irrelevant and OU is about the only ally they have who cannot see it.  Before today, OU being a subservient pawn for UT could be classified as ‘perception.’  Now, it appears it is a reality. Gosh, maybe we will get a consolation prize like UT will continue to employ Dodds, Brown, Barnes, and Garrido for another year.

“Please pass up the chain of command.  Some of us can see the Emperor has no clothes and not afraid to state the obvious.”

Consider it passed. But the truth is, this is not any kind of DeLoss Dodds edict. This is an ESPN edict. The folly of individual-school networks continues to raise its head. The real enemy here is ESPN. The Big 12 is aligned with an entity that has a huge interest in building up one of the particular schools in the Big 12. And all that was made possible by the decision to forego a conference network and let schools branch out on their own. That is where OU made its mistake. The Sooners’ alliance with Fox Sports has proven to be fine and solid and good television for ardent OU fans. But Fox Sports is not ESPN. Which is why Lon Kruger’s team will make its conference debut under the symbol of Bevo.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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